South Korea to compensate victims of Japan’s forced labour
South Korea says it would compensate victims of Japan’s wartime forced labour through its own public foundation in a bid to improve poor relations that have impeded trade and cooperation between the two countries.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister, Park Jin said that under the plan, South Korea would compensate former forced labourers through an existing public foundation funded by private-sector companies.
“The soured South Korea-Japan relations should no longer be neglected, and we need to end the vicious cycle for the national interest, for the people,” Park said.
He said he hopes Japan responds sincerely, including by “implementing its previous public statements expressing remorse and apology.”
Japanese companies will not be expected to make any payments under the plan, but would not be blocked from donating if they want, said Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.
“We welcome this as a step that returns Japan-South Korea relations to a healthy one,” he said.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he welcomed the proposal and said he would work closely with Yoon.
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The proposal was welcomed in Tokyo but faced immediate backlash from some victims and South Korea’s main opposition party, who accused the government of capitulating to Japan.
The disagreements over labour and women forced into Japanese military brothels have bedevilled ties between the two pivotal U.S. allies for years, but South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has made a push to repair the relationship.
Poor relations between the two have been a point of concern for the United States, which is seeking to present a more unified front with its allies against the rising power of China and threats from North Korea’s expanding missile and nuclear arsenal.
In a statement, U.S. President Joe Biden said the announcements were a “a groundbreaking new chapter of cooperation and partnership between two of the United States’ closest allies” and a “critical step to forge a future for the Korean and Japanese people that is safer, more secure, and more prosperous.”
A Japanese government source close to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that the United States has been pressing both countries to reconcile, but that a main factor that triggered Yoon’s push for reconciliation is the geopolitical threat from North Korea.